The Mount Cameroon region of Africa is world renown for many reasons.  It is one of the world’s most impressive active volcanoes, rising from sea level to its 4100m summit, and due in large part to this great elevational gradient it is an area of exceptional biodiversity.  But just as importantly, Mount Cameroon is also known as a culturally rich area with much associated folklore.

Newly-planted Magic Tree
Newly-planted Magic Tree

One piece of local folklore revolves around a solitary tree that once grew high on the steep slopes of the mountain.  It was a “mgbeli ya vako” or “magic tree”, and was locally named “éyeh ya teke muteh” after a hunter named Teke Muteh who first used the magic tree as his resting point.  This Magic Tree was one of the most cherished and visited sites on the mountain.  According to local legend, it was believed to be mystical because whenever the locals visited the mountain, they found it very difficult to get to the tree since it appeared that the tree was moving away from them as they moved towards it.  To the locals, the tree was an important point for resting, just as it had been for Teke Muteh.  Visitors had also used this point for resting and listening to local folklore and buying souvenirs.

Regrettably, some years back, some unknown persons vandalized and cut down this revered tree.  Due to the historical and cultural significance of the site, Global Hand Cameroon in collaboration with the Mount Cameroon National Park Service saw reason to revive the legend by planting a symbolic tree where the Magic Tree once stood.  This new Magic Tree will carry on the stories and traditions that are such an integral part of the park and the lives of the local people.


Community Engagement Towards Natural Resource Management

The Bantu people who settled around Mount Cameroon in the late 17th and early 18th centuries were drawn primarily by the abundance of resources they found in this lush area. Wildlife was plentiful and hunting was a priority activity. As time went on, the traditional hunting techniques which used only natural materials gave way to more efficient methods which included the use of wire snares, den-guns and dogs. These new techniques greatly increased the chances of making a kill.

Initially, this worked well. The vastness of the area permitted the hunters to establish large hunting grounds, and a single hunter could deploy between 150 and 500 snares or traps. Over the long term, however, this large-scale trapping was not sustainable, and wildlife numbers diminished critically. Since it was not easy to check so many traps regularly due to the difficult terrain, the traps ended up killing much wildlife regardless of age, sex or status (pregnant or not).

This unsustainable trend is now being reversed through the efforts of community-based organizations such as Global Hand Cameroon, as well as other institutions such as the Mount Cameroon National Park (MCNP). According to Mr. Ikome Nelson, Collaborative Management Unit Head of MCNP, the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR) has introduced a sustainable livelihood package that supports hunters by providing livestock, agriculture and vocational training as alternative income sources.

As part of this project, some identified hunters have already been trained in their various areas of interest. And due to the envisaged benefits of this initiative, hunters from two of the four targeted villages have collaborated with the park service to dismantle and remove their traps from around and within the national park. In that joint effort, the hunters handed over 3500 wire snares to the park service.

Wildlife and communities alike are benefitting from this very positive new initiative.


Mount Cameroon is one of many important watersheds in West Africa and is critical to the people of South West Cameroon for their water supply. In the rural communities, people depend on drinking sources such as springs, streams, rivers and lakes. In urban towns and cities, over ninety percent of the city dwellers depend on secondary drinking sources such as pipe-born water. The ever-continuous running streams and rivers have long shaped the infrastructural development and agricultural patterns of these communities.

In recent times, however, increases in population and farming fields have negatively affected the traditional infrastructural patterns. Firstly, since places like Buea are cosmopolitan towns, the rapid increase in population has necessitated an expansion of infrastructure to accommodate more people. To meet up with this, individuals (especially immigrants from outside the region) have neglected to consider the indigenous settlement patterns which took into consideration environmental risk factors such as the overflow of running rivers.

Secondly, an increasing population has led to higher demands for agricultural produce and thus an increase in the size and number of agricultural fields. However, communities within this area are located on the slopes of the mountain and thus face the real challenge of dealing with severe erosion from run-off or overflow from the rivers. The indisputable need for food and income has influenced some farmers to waive the risk of the overflowing rivers and run-off.

On the other hand, the long periods during which the rivers have stayed dry have equally pushed people to waive the risk of the rivers ever flooding. For decades, many of the river valleys have remained dry, giving farmers the idea that they are reclaiming good farming space.

Today, climate-induced challenges, including strong winds and irregular but heavy rains, have greatly affected the farming calendar and output. Plantain and yam farmers face serious challenges when strong winds erode the soil. Other crops like tubers are often washed away by flooding water. To worsen the situation, the current frequent rainfalls have caused long-dry streams to run again, taking the population by surprise. To this effect, we have witnessed frequent flooding of buildings and overflow on highways which disrupt traffic.

With all of the above, some communities are taking action to mitigate the dangers of the frequent floods and strong winds. Amongst other things, we have encouraged community efforts to reopen or create proper drainage patterns that will channel all the flooding water out of these communities without causing any threat to life or property. In addition, we continue our campaign by encouraging the local administration and council to review the settlement plan and develop good drainage systems.

It is said that the settlers around the Mount Cameroon Area migrated from the Congo Basin and thus are Bantus. As part of their activities, they find interest in fishing, agriculture and hunting. In that regard, from time immemorial these have been the primary activities of the occupants in the area. The more than 58,178 hectares of forest cover in this area positively influenced the settlement of the hunting and farming population.

However, increasing worries about the loss of forest cover and valuable biodiversity—that is, plants and animals alike—drew the attention of the Cameroon Government and other international NGOs and governments as a call for concern. In order to protect and conserve the huge biodiversity found in this geographical setup, the government declared the area a National Park, thereby controlling the hunting and farming activity. Later, the emergence of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List further restricted local residents from hunting (wildlife and honey), as well as from the timber exploitation and extensive farming that was negatively impacting the forest cover.

To help achieve the objectives of the Cameroon Government towards biodiversity conservation and forest cover protection, we are using community education programs to inform, sensitize and educate locals on the importance and need to conserve the biodiversity, and strategies for farming alongside the forest cover. For a more sustainable livelihood for locals and communities, the Mount Cameroon National Park Service—through the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR) South West—has identified over fifty local hunters who will be empowered on alternative green income generating activities such as piggery, beekeeping, yam/plantain cultivation and poultry. To ensure that the beneficiaries are well equipped, a series of training sessions are being held. Following the training, the trainees are given some supplies (including piglets, pig feed, and a drum each) and other necessary equipment.

All this is to ensure a more sustainable protein and income source for all the park communities (communities sharing direct boundaries with the park). It is believed that upon finalization of the project, pressure on natural resources and biodiversity and the communities’ interference in the park will be reshaped positively, with an increase in wildlife populations and regeneration of the carbon sink, habitat and vegetation.

Global Hand Cameroon was fortunate to be able to participate in an excellent training course recently on the topic of ecosystem restoration and poverty alleviation through Forest Gardening. Our report follows:

Forest Gardening:  A Resilient Farming System

Over the years, local farmers have had great success using traditional farming techniques. In the past, the majority of farmers around the Mount Cameroon area and beyond relied on the traditional farming calendar and natural ecosystem services and restoration opportunities. Farmers worried less about soil nutrient, structure and texture enhancements. Back then, the soil was just good enough to produce what the farmers needed, taking into account other environmental aspects that manipulated the ecosystem positively such as the moisture level, temperature, and forest cover, to name just a few.

With the recent climatic and other related environmental challenges that have negatively affected traditional farming knowledge and practice, local populations have had to resort to various solutions to their individual challenges. In addition, changing agricultural conditions have influenced the introduction of new crops such as maize, sweet potato and cassava, which require cutting down the forest carbon sink in order to provide the required sunlight to crops, and tilling of beds which destroys the soil. In one way or another, these practices alter the entire landscape and expose the earth surface to direct sunlight, resulting in high water loss which in turn can lead to long-term drought, as well as exposing soil microbial organisms to intense sunlight, reducing their effectiveness or even killing them altogether.

These climate change-induced challenges have added to the challenges which already exist, making it almost impossible for some farmers to provide food for their families, much less make a surplus that can fetch the family some money to support their basic needs. In response, farmers have resorted to adopting some modern farming techniques and methods even when they are aware of the negative consequences that may result from it.

As an example, local farmers have adopted the use of chemical fertilizers, chemical weeding, and the use of pesticides and fungicides (to fight new and resistant pests and crop diseases) to improve their output. All of these practices affect the soil negatively in the long run. Moreover, the acquisition of these materials can put farmers in debt, which at times has been paid with their harvest—and yes, the poverty cycle continues.

In order to avert this situation, we are looking back to the traditional farming system to sort out those techniques and methods that can be revised, and which if properly applied will not only impact the environment or ecosystem positively but will also provide a year-round nutritional food supply—while at the same time fetching a sustainable income for the family. It is in that light that Global Hand is applying the Forest Garden Technique in individual farms within targeted communities around Mount Cameroon. We intend to expand this project to other areas and households. This will help farmers maintain the soil, provide high-value nutritional meals from their garden, and make more income than before from their excess harvest and other marketable products such as fruits, fodder, timber, non-timber forest products (NTFP) and compost.